Well sort of. Have you ever been so obsessed with the content of a book that it takes over your life? Well not your whole life, but you find yourself thinking about it night and day. Googling people, places, events. It’s happening to me right now!
Last summer I read Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures. (Note: This slice is not a verboten book review.) Now, if you’ve ever read any of Chevalier’s novels, you know how much research she does to weave together powerful and intriguing stories. The only way I can describe what I experience when reading her books is like falling down a rabbit hole of the unknown — minus the disorienting and mentally deranging bit. She introduces you to people and places you aren’t familiar with, and had no idea you were interested in, but them BAM! you are. Her well-researched historical fiction about 19th century fossil hunter and amateur paleontologist Mary Anning left me wanting more. Anning, who lived in Lyme Regis along what we now refer to as the Jurassic Coast of England and who used to comb the beaches with her father for “curiosities,” is responsible for discovering the first ichthyosaur skeleton and complete plesiosaurs, and so much more. Alas, she was a woman, came from a poor family, was uneducated, and it was the 19th century, so you can guess how that played out.
Now to the fun part. I loved learning about all of this, and, as a teacher, I never miss the opportunity to “do what scientists do.” To that end, my husband and I are going to Lyme Regis this summer. We’ll be going on an organized fossil hunting trip on Mary’s beach and walking sections of the 630 mile long South West Coast Path through parts of Devon and Dorset. And all because of a book. Thank you, Ms. Chevalier!
Want to know more about Mary Anning? Here’s my suggested reading list, a.k.a. the rabbit hole I fell down.
Remarkable Creatures (Chevalier) — Wonderful historical fiction to whet your appetite.
The Fossil Hunter (Emling) — As close to a biography of Mary Anning as we get. There are so few written letters and records.
Finding Wonders (Atkins) — Jeannine’s gorgeous novel, written in verse, includes Mary Anning as one of the “three girls who changed science.” If you’ve never read a verse novel, don’t miss this!
Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon (Atkins), The Fossil Girl (Brighton), and Stone Girl Bone Girl : The Story of Mary Anning of Lyme Regis (Anholt) — Children’s literature to introduce young readers (or yourself!) to Anning and her discoveries.
This post is part of the annual month-long Slice of Life writing challenge organized by Two Writing Teachers. Join us! It’s my first slicing!